By Doula Jen
La Leche League. Maybe you know it and love it. Maybe you’ve been and didn’t quite connect. Maybe you’re curious but scared. Is it some kind of secret society? Do I sign my name in breast milk?
I myself felt a little nervous-curious before my first LLL meeting, nearly a decade ago. I didn’t know what to expect.
I wasn’t really having any breastfeeding problems. I was merely new in town and looking for a like-minded mothering community. My daughter had just turned one and I wanted to explore the idea of extended breastfeeding and subsequent weaning. This was new territory and I wondered what choices other nursing moms were making and how they were putting them into practice.
Practically, I received advice on nursing through pregnancy (hello baby brother), tandem nursing and weaning. As my breastfeeding relationship with my son progressed, I found that my milk velocity increased with an intensity that it hadn’t when my daughter was young (perhaps because I had just finished nursing a toddler). The LLL leaders and members gave me tips on pre-feed expression and reclined breastfeeding.
All of this was — of course — extremely helpful, but it wasn’t information that I couldn’t find in a book or even online. The real benefits of LLL meetings went much deeper:
Everyone was breastfeeding!
Seriously…everyone! I could nurse without covering up, hiding out or worrying about polarization. As a doula, I constantly advocate for peer community — diaper bags, tired eyes, etc. This, for a nursing mother, takes it to the next level. To nurse freely while eating snacks and drinking tea with other mamas? It made breastfeeding “out” a relaxing and enjoyable experience — a mindset I was able to take to other public locations with practice.
Triumphs, conflicts and challenges were met with respect and understanding. Baby steps were applauded. No matter where a woman was in her breastfeeding journey, she was encouraged.
In time, I began offering advice and teaching new mamas my favorite breastfeeding hold. I became the shoulder to cry on, the cheerleader, the peer support. It was extremely empowering to come full circle: new mama to breastfeeding expert — an experience that strengthened my own mama instincts and probably helped pave today to my eventual work as a postpartum doula.
Check out La Leche League of Minnesota and the Dakotas to find a group near you.